IMELDA Marcos, wife of President Ferdinand Marcos of
the Philippines, met Pope John Paul II over Easter at the Vatican.
During her Eastertime visit to Rome and the Vatican, Mrs
Marcos also received messages of concern for the plight of three priests and six lay workers charged with the murder of the mayor of a Philippine town.
"In keeping with the theme of the iubilee year, you come in a
spirit of peace and
reconciliation, in fraternity and friendship," the Pope said to
Mrs Marcos, who was accompanied by 60 persons, including several priests. Recalling his visit to the Philippines in 1981, tie praised the vitality of the Catholic faith, and the warmth and hospitality of the Filipinos.
Meanwhile, several groups of men and women religious made public messages to Mrs Marcos
asking the release of Columban Fr Niall O'Brien, a missionary
from Ireland; Columban Fr Brian Gore, a missionary from Australia; Filipino Fr Vicente
Dangan; and six lay workers. The nine are on trial for the March 10, 1982, murder of Mayor Pablo Sola of Kabankalan, Philippines.
The nine have been active in social justice causes, have supported Filipinos who have accused the military of committing atrocities and have provided legal assistance in land cases. They were arrested on February 25, 1983 and are known as the "Negros nine" because they work in the province of Negros which is where the murder took place.
A few days after the murder the New People's Army, a
Marxist guerilla group, claimed responsibility for the assassination.
The Commission on Peace and Justice of the Major Superiors of Men and Women Religious, representing more than a million Religious, and several individual Religious sent messages to Mrs Marcos. "At the end of the Holy Year of Reconciliation, urgently request release of Negros nine from slanderous murder charges," the peace and justice commission telegrammed Mrs Marcos.
Columban Fr Michael O'Donohue, who recently arrived in Rome from the Philippines, said there appears to be some evidence that the case against the nine may be dismissed. He said that the Philippine under-secretary for justice is reviewing defence affidavits.
Fr O'Donohue also reported demonstrations in support of the prisoners in the town of Bacolod, where the trial is taking place.